My Life in Stalinist Russia: An American Woman Looks Back

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9780253338662: My Life in Stalinist Russia: An American Woman Looks Back
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"You will not be allowed to leave this country, no matter how many times you try." The colonel from the Soviet Ministry of Internal Affairs did not look up at me as he spoke. With difficulty, I had obtained an appointment to see the head of the department of visas and registration (OVIR) in Moscow. On that day in 1960, I had come to appeal the refusal to let me visit my parents in the United States. My husband had died and I had made up my mind to do everything in my power to return to the land where I was born...Though I have now lived in the United States longer than in the Soviet Union, the thirty-four years I spent there - my entire youth - were the most significant years of my life, as was the historical period I was compelled to live through. Hence my story. At the beginning of 1931, Mary M. Leder was a fifteen-year old teenager attending high school in Santa Monica, California. By the year's end, she was living in a Moscow commune thousands of miles from her family and learning a trade in a factory. She would spend the next thirty-four years of her life in the Soviet Union, half of them as a dedicated member of the Young Communist League who looked forward to full-fledged membership in the Communist Party. Yet, by the mid 1940s, Mary's loyalty to the USSR would collapse, eroded by the ugly anti-Semitism and xenophobia of post-war Russia. Although the young woman who came to Soviet Russia in 1931 believed in socialism and internationalism, she was totally disillusioned when she finally returned to the United States in 1965. My Life in Stalinist Russia chronicles Mary's experiences from her parents' Depression-era decision to leave the United States for the Soviet Union and her separation from them when she was sixteen until she returned to America. The narrative focuses primarily on 1931 to 1953, the era when Joseph Stalin wielded supreme power. Through Mary's eyes, we see the Soviet Union during the First Five-Year Plan, Stalin's Great Terror, the German invasion of the USSR and World War II, and the beginning of the Cold War. This unique autobiography presents a vivid view of life within Stalinist Russia.

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Review:

"Mary Mackler Leder was by no means a significant figure in Stalinist Russia, but readers will find that she writes an arresting observer's account of life in Russia over more than two decades. Sovietologists of the Stalinist era will find interesting anecdotes about Soviet life that confirm, revise, and in some cases authenticate the constructed sociology of the time. One example that constantly reappears is Leder's insistence on stating that she is an American, while the authorities both high and low, all across the Soviet Union, simply classify her as Jewish, with all the usual and stereotypical ramifications of that view. Two particular periods of the account are noteworthy--those about the purges in the 1930s and the war years, during which time her baby daughter died. Perhaps most remarkable is Leder's ability to recall her past with exquisite detail and precision so many years beyond the events. Upper-division undergraduates and above." --C. W. Haury, Piedmont Virginia Community College, Choice, January 2002 "Mary Mackler Leder was by no means a significant figure in Stalinist Russia, but readers will find that she writes an arresting observer's account of life in Russia over more than two decades. Sovietologists of the Stalinist era will find interesting anecdotes about Soviet life that confirm, revise, and in some cases authenticate the constructed sociology of the time. One example that constantly reappears is Leder's insistence on stating that she is an American, while the authorities both high and low, all across the Soviet Union, simply classify her as Jewish, with all the usual and stereotypical ramifications of that view. Two particular periods of the account are noteworthy those about the purges in the 1930s and the war years, during which time her baby daughter died. Perhaps most remarkable is Leder's ability to recall her past with exquisite detail and precision so many years beyond the events. Upper-division undergraduates and above." C. W. Haury, Piedmont Virginia Community College, Choice, January 2002" Mary Mackler Leder was by no means a significant figure in Stalinist Russia, but readers will find that she writes an arresting observer's account of life in Russia over more than two decades. Sovietologists of the Stalinist era will find interesting anecdotes about Soviet life that confirm, revise, and in some cases authenticate the constructed sociology of the time. One example that constantly reappears is Leder's insistence on stating that she is an American, while the authorities both high and low, all across the Soviet Union, simply classify her as Jewish, with all the usual and stereotypical ramifications of that view. Two particular periods of the account are noteworthy--those about the purges in the 1930s and the war years, during which time her baby daughter died. Perhaps most remarkable is Leder's ability to recall her past with exquisite detail and precision so many years beyond the events. Upper-division undergraduates and above.--C. W. Haury, Piedmont Virginia Community College""Choice"" (01/01/2002)

About the Author:

Mary M. Leder has lived in New York since her return from the Soviet Union in 1965.Laurie Bernstein is Associate Professor of History at Rutgers University, Camden, and author of Sonia's Daughters: Prostitutes and Their Regulation in Imperial Russia.Robert Weinberg is Associate Professor of History at Swarthmore College. He is author of The Revolution of 1905 in Odessa: Blood on the Steps and Stalin's Forgotten Zion: Birobidzhan and The Making of a Soviet Jewish Homeland.

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